Camila Batmanghelidjh

Robust Compassion for Unloved Children

 


Camila Batmanghelidjh grew up as the youngest child in a wealthy Iranian family that owned a sports center. There was a violent revolution in Iran when Camila was a young adult in a London private school. She went on to college in Great Britain, studied psychotherapy, and became a social worker before she conceived a unique idea about how to help young children with destructive, criminal behavior, the kids that people fear and avoid because they don't know how to handle the situations. 

She wanted to make places where these unloved children could experience what it is like to have a good parents.  Because these children were dangerous, to themselves and to others, she called her type of centers as places where she would provide robust compassion.  (It is not the same idea as the American concept of Tough Love which is when someone treats another person harshly or sternly with the intent to help them in the long run).  Instead, it is the idea of treating another person with kindness.  She opened drop-in centers in London where the children could have a safe & clean place, get a good meal, and be with adults who treated them kindly despite anything they had done criminally.  Today there are four of these centers in London serving 17,000 children. As Camila explains, "Punishment for the sake of punishment doesn't do anything for these kids."

Her centers offer safe and closely managed after-school programs combining learning, games and an evening meal, counseling and therapy, and alternative educational programs for children. Although the centers mostly help children from 6 to 12, they also help teenagers and young adults all the way up to the ages of 23 or 24 with further education, training and employment.

At the core of Camila's approach is to give a parenting experience to children whose parents cannot function well as parents. She never says that the children "have bad parents." Instead, she talks about parents who are not capable of being a parent Sort of like the American expression, "they should never have been a parent. It's something they just cannot do." This newspaper article describes a boy in such a situation and a photo of one of Camila's drop-in centers called Arches Two.

How To Make A Difference by Camila Batmanghelidjh

Kids Company - their centers in London use a unique approach combines health, housing, emotional well-being, mental health, arts, sports, youth justice, education and employment. These interventions are designed to strengthen, supplement or substitute the child’s parenting experience.

Video Interview of Camila Batmanghelidjh

posted 5/27/12

 

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